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Did you know . . .

. . . that a majority of doctors want to be able to help patients end their lives

Opinion polls reveal strong support for the legalisation of Physician Assisted Suicide among the medical profession, and among the population at large. A majority of medical  practitioners (54%) are in favour of changing the law to allow PAS in some circumstances, with only 36% of respondants opposing such a change. 55% felt that this should be permissible if the person had a terminal condition or was in a state of extreme mental or physical suffering. (Glasgow University Physician Assisted Suicide Report, 1996).

 . . . that a substantial majority of the British public support legalisation of euthanasia

Surveys of public opinion are notoriously fickle, but in this area they have been remarkably consistent, both over time and as between themselves. Although the precise numbers have varied somewhat, nationwide polls have been unanimous in showing a majority to be in favour of legalised voluntary euthanasia, with highly respected sources showing support as high as 82% (British Social Attitudes Report, 1996).

The strongest support (86%) was in the case of the individual who has an incurable illness leaving him dependent upon a life support machine, unable to make a decision about his own future - as in the case of a permanent coma. This outweighed even the support in cases of persons suffering from a terminal, painful and incurable illness (80%). (British Social Attitudes Report, 1996).

. . . that no nationwide poll has ever shown a majority against voluntary euthanasia

Those who know something of public opinion surveys will be aware that results can to some extent depend upon how the question is phrased. It is therefore worth noting that opponents of v.e. have found similar results upon commissioning their own research. A MORI poll commissioned by the anti voluntary euthanasia group Doctors Who Respect Human Life in  1987 found 72% of respondants in favour of legalised euthanasia! Indeed, anti-v.e. groups have been unable to produce a single survey of U.K. opinion which did not show a majority in favour of legalisation.

. . . that this support is mirrored across the globe

Widespread backing for legalisation of v.e. has been discovered throughout the world. 64% of Americans believe that a doctor should be allowed to end the life of a patient who has a painful and terminal disease if that patient wishes to die. (Roper poll 1990). In Australia, the figure is even higher, with 78% backing the doctor’s right to end the patient’s life. (Roy Morgan Research Centre poll 1995).

. . . that support for voluntary euthanasia is even stronger among the elderly

Anti-v.e. groups often base their opposition upon the assertion that legalisation of euthanasia or assisted suicide would pose a threat to the most vulnerable in society - in particular, the elderly and the disabled. It is interesting to note, therefore, that support among members of such groups is actually higher than among those not deemed to be at special risk.

In what is believed to be the first such poll specifically targeted at pensioners, 92% of those surveyed replied that doctors should be allowed to end the life of terminally ill patients who want to die. Only 29% agreed with the statement that legalising euthanasia posed a realistic risk of allowing the unscrupulous to end a patient’s life without consent. (Yours magazine - November 1994.)

. . . and the disabled

Research has also shown that those with disabilities are more likely to be in favour of euthanasia than those who are able bodied. (British Social Attitudes Report, 1996).

. . . that a majority of Roman Catholics support the right to die

It is a widely held misconception that most Roman Catholics are opposed to voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide. Certainly, the official position of the Church hierarchy is opposed to v.e. However, research has revealed that as many as 73% of U.K. Catholics agree that doctors should be allowed to help an incurably ill patient to die. (NOP poll, 1993)

. . . that support for v.e. is actually  growing

Opinion polls show that not only do euthanasia and assisted suicide already enjoy the support of a substantial majority of the UK population, but also that this support is actually growing. A 75% majority in favour of permitting medical assistance in the ending the life of a sufferer from a painful, incurable disease in 1984 increased to 79% in 1989, and 82% in 1994 (British Social Attitudes Report, 1996.)

This is mirrored by the findings of the NOP poll, which reported a substantial increase in support for medical assistance in dying between 1976 (69%) and 1993 (79%). (NOP poll, 1993.)

With each passing year, more and more British people are coming to see the legalisation of voluntary euthanasia as rational and humane - an idea whose time has come.

The results of the Glasgow University Physician Assisted Suicide Report are published in “Sometimes A Small Victory”, Sheila A. M. McLean and Alison Britton, 1996.

“The 13th British Social Attitudes Report”, edited by Roger Jowell, John Curtice, et al, (Dartmouth 1996).

The NOP poll consisted of an interview with a nationally representative sample of 2,012 adults in Great Britain between 31 March and 5 April 1993. The Roper Poll consisted of an interview with 1,978 Americans in April 1990.

The results of the Roy Morgan Research Centre survey were based on interviews with a representative sample of 1,158 Australians between 10 and 11 June 1995.
The Yours magazine issue containing the poll results went on sale on 30 November 1994, and was published by Choice Publications, Ltd. It consisted of interviews with a representative sample of 2,500 of the magazine’s readers.